UNITED STATES—”You know I figure I owe mom about twenty thousand dollars over twelve years.”

“You carry that around?” Karen says.

“I do,” says Davy. “Somebody told me not to worry. That whenever a mother gives something, they never expect it to be paid back. It was comfort at the time.”

“You were comforted.”

“And it was the beginning in Los Angeles, my second chance after New York.”

“My perspective is so different,” Karen says, darkness around the bed now. “I was going to Cabrillo College. And it kept me from being that dressed up best person I could have been. Betty kept me down, her words tarnished. You got a fresh start, new people and fresh dreams. I was here. I was here in Watsonville, working in the drug store, seeing the same people. I didn’t get that start in life that you did, going to New York.”

“The things I could tell you, Karen… Um, gee. Uh, manhood is so defined by silence. Put it that way. Is that something Betty did to me. You seem to be something of an expert on the subject, Karen.”

“I sure feel guilty to this day that my college didn’t bring in the bacon. I feel like I owe them bigtime, and dad isn’t even here.”

“You say ‘them,’ but you mean here,” says Karen. “Dad wouldn’t even care, you know how he was. You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do. He cared about bigger things. I used to think he was a bobblehead. Now I know the wisdom that lurked behind his silence.”

“Just once he told her to shut up. I was so proud of that moment. She was going off about what I was going to do with my life. Spoiling a perfectly good dinner out at Cocos and time together. I was starting to cry. He Dad said, ‘Why don’t you just shut up.'”

“What power she’s had,” Davy says. “Nobody stopped her. We should have stopped her before things got to this, but nobody ever prepared us for that. The silence, the filtered through charcoal silence. I want to let it all out…”

“Well, this has forced the issue. Something like the fall had to happen and it brings everything out into the open, like Mom’s stationary fetish. My god, all the envelopes and notepaper we had to donate from the storage locker.”

They laugh.

“Now it’s bringing things out in the open and she’s out of the house.”

“Karen, I’ve got a secret. You encouraged me. I got a head start on the house. I started a breakthrough in the hallway, getting the feng shuy going again. Those boxes.”

“What was in them?”

“More Christmas stuff” – they snort laughter.

“Well…”

“And I little bit more than that. I threw away the set of Shirley Temple dishes.”

“No!”

“Yes.”

“You didn’t.”

“She’s going to have a cow. She’s going to have a stroke.”

“She’s going to see the baseboard and the floors for the first time in this century.”

“What did you say?” the mom is awake. “Something about the Shirley Temple dishes.”

“And the plates, Mom, the damned Christmas plates with the blue children. Gone, destroyed. Robbers came into the house and took them all.”

“Oh my… I think I’m going to cry. Why are you doing this to me? It’s mean.”

“Bring out your hope pills.”

“What’s it gonna be for Mom?”

“What are you talking about?”

“What do ya think? You, of course.”

“I don’t know,” Betty shrugs shoulders; immediately drops asleep, mouth gaping open.

“What’s it gonna be, Davy. The desire to go to Samantha’s graduation, to take a s*$!t on her own, or the magic anxiety drug?”

To be continued

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Hollywood humorist Grady Miller grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon). His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)